From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1
Time to head back to Walt Disney World for the 2016 Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This is the 8th year for this event, and the third year for the Glass Slipper Challenge. My fifth time running the half marathon, and third year for the GSC.
I really enjoy this event, even though I don't care much for either the 10K or the half marathon courses, LOL! I find that there are advantages and disadvantages to it being a women-focused event. I think the character and other photo ops are a lot more fun for this one - there seem to be more of them, and a wider variety of characters than during the other weekends.
Without so many men in the race, my proof of time gets me a much better corral here than for any of the other WDW races, too. :-)
But the Expo and the merchandise...not so good. There have been several disasters associated with Princess weekend - and this year had its challenges, too. But I'll get to all of that.
Given previous Expo "issues" in the past I intentionally did not go to the Expo on Thursday, the day it opened. This turned out to be an excellent idea. Reports from people who were there early in the day were that the lines for packet pickup (which is usually pretty efficient) stretched out the door of the Field House! It was taking close to an hour just to pick up bibs. And over in the Official Merchandise area, there were some actual blows exchanged as people fought over merchandise. Wow. Unbelievable. I do not understand why Disney does not impose quantity limits. Or offer additional merchandise for pre-order.
Friday, February 19 - Expo
Lee and I ended up going to the Expo, held at Wide World of Sports, on Friday afternoon around 4:30. I was disappointed that the banners for the various races weren't at the entrance to Wide World of Sports as they usually are. Just a couple of generic weekend banners. No lines to speak of for packet pickup - it was as easy as it should be.
The main Expo floor was still plenty busy, but not horrible.
There was no line to get into the official merchandise area.
There was still a fair amount of merchandise available, but it was obvious that some items had sold out, and a number of the merchandise bays featured generic runDisney items. For the "I Did It" shirts, they were already down to limited sizes for the 10K and Challenge shirts.
In protest for the poor way that I believe merchandise is handled, I did not purchase ANYTHING. Though to be honest all I really would have purchased would have been a magnet and maybe one of the mini medal pins.
There was this cute runDisney shirt - but I have waaaaay too many running shirts already.
And of course, I got three more for this race weekend! I'm very happy that they all have short sleeves.
Lee was unimpressed with the color of the half marathon shirt. :-) (I was, too.)
There were a few of the coveted wine glasses left - it sounded like this was the last of them, though.
The rest of the Expo was pretty much the same as it always is. If we'd been looking for some last-minute costume pieces, or race gear that we'd forgotten, there were opportunities to purchase those sorts of items. But we've found lately that all of the Disney race expos look the same to us.
Saturday, February 20 - 10K
We'd decided to drive ourselves to the 10K instead of taking the bus. And since it's a smaller race than the half marathon (about half the number of runners), we allowed ourselves to sleep in until 3:00, and left the room about 3:45. We still had very little traffic, and were parked by 4:10. It was a coolish morning (52 degrees) - great for running, and not too bad for standing around. I had a trash bag and gloves for warmth while I waited, and that was fine. Really, I couldn't have asked for better weather. Very comfortable for running.
There was a security checkpoint, but we didn't have any bags, so were able to go through the "No bags" line. Though I think that was actually longer than the line for people who had bags! They had plenty of people checking us to make sure we didn't have bags, and it moved quickly.
We met up with the Mickey Milers prior to the race - nice to see some familiar faces!
The race started at 5:30, and they sent us to our corrals around 5:00. One very nice thing about the 5K and 10K races is that, because there are fewer runners, the corrals are in the Epcot parking lot just next to the pre-race area. No 1/2 mile walk to get to the start area.
We were in Corral A, and it's always nice to be up front. We didn't have a very good view of the stage, though. Not much of a show - though the Fairy Godmother started us off.
I unfortunately had come down with a bad head cold the week before the race, and I was not 100%. I knew I wasn't going to get a personal record this year. I hadn't run in a week, and wasn't even sure how I would feel. Though we started together, Lee quickly outpaced me. He was also coming off a cold, and didn't PR either, though he finished in under an hour.
While this course isn't my favorite, it's still a pretty fast course, and fairly easy to run. The first three+ miles are not very interesting: all on roads outside Epcot. I didn't stop to take any photos, but there were a number of photo opportunities. Elsa and Anna were on the overpass, talking to the runners, and it was snowing. Tinker Bell and several of the other pixies were near mile 1, and Pocahontas and Meeko were near mile two or three.
Finally, about mile 3.5, we entered Epcot. Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio were posing for photos in Italy, and Lumiere and Cogsworth were posing at France. I was dressed as Belle, so I wish I would've stopped for that one...since I was early in the race the line was pretty short, and I was trying to take it easy.
After we went out the International Gateway, the Genie was posing outside ESPN Club. We ran all the way around Crescent Lake and turned left at the International Gateway to head backstage. Sophia the First was there. Once we came back into the park next to the Imagination Pavilion we went left and ran in front of The Land and The Living Seas, then through the Innoventions breezeway. Across the park, under Spaceship Earth, and backstage again, where it was only .2 miles to the finish line.
I finished in 1:01:51. All things considered, I was happy with that. Lee came in at 58:15.
Since the 10K was added, each race weekend has featured a different princess - this year it was Ariel, so all of the medals and neck ribbons had an ocean theme. That's been nice to see.
We got our usual runDisney MRE boxes. Not a bad variety, though I miss the Almond Roca!
We didn't hang around the post-race area very long. While walking back to the car we met Lisa, a long-time reader of this blog. We've corresponded a bit, and it was great to finally meet her in person! Hi Lisa - and congratulations on your excellent race (she placed in her age group!).
We tried to mostly rest and relax for the rest of the day, since the half marathon was the next day.
So as you might recall from our first, second, and third installments, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."
[Photos provided by Disney.]
The next department to speak to us was Animation with Head of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Animation Supervisors Kira Lehtomaki (Judy Hopps,) Nathan Engelhardt (Clawhauser, Gazelle,) Jennifer Hager (Chief Bogo, Gazelle,) and Chad Sellers (Mr. Big.)
"Our great challenge was that our guys were walking around on two legs, and the real animals are walking around on four legs...We did a lot of testing, a lot of trying/figuring things out and we kind of figured that if you could capture, like, the movement of their head or the cadence of their walk then it really felt like the animal, even though it didn't really look like the animal."
--Although they looked at some of the classic Disney animated films, they wanted most of their animal modeling to reflect real life.
--While they had some animals come into the studios, they also went on a research trip to Kenya.
--An effort was made to reflect how prey animals tend to move in herds, almost like one large organism.
--Wildebeest turn out to be not the brightest animals on the Savannah.
"The African Cape Buffalo...we learned that these guys are one of the scariest, meanest animals in Africa. They're really nasty. They have a horrible temper, and we learned that if they see somebody coming...they'll just stop and turn and stare you down. It's very creepy."
--Cheetah have strong, piston-like legs and keep their heads relatively stationary as they run...which was a challenge to implement into the less-than-athletic Clawhauser.
"Another animal found in Zootopia is the weasel...You can see in the reference...this really erratic quality to the movement style and it's almost like it's very broken, too. We have a weasel in Zootopia and he's a thief, and so you see him running with this duffel bag over his head and really found fun areas to pepper in that erratic, ropy quality into his lower torso/hip area. You can see him bouncing all around while his upper torso is remaining isolated."
--John Lasseter, in order to illustrate something specific he wants in a scene, will occasionally film reference material of himself.
--Rabbits turn out to be relatively athletic, with a specific jump mechanism called "binky" in which they jump in the air and flick their head around. This was incorporated into Judy's movements as part of her police officer physicality.
--The character of Judy Hopps changed when Ginnifer Goodwin was cast, from a more seasoned, sarcastic, disillutioned police veteran to an optimistic, genuine personality.
After the main presentation, Renato dos Anjos and Kira Lehtomaki gave us a few minutes for some individual discussion.
On what was some of their biggest challenges to animate:
"Nick was a challenge with his long muzzle, because we're used to having human characters with the mouths more on the front of the face, but then suddenly we had this character that had this big long muzzle...and I think that's where "Robin Hood" came into it as a big help, looking back at it because you'll see as he opens up his mouth, his jaw is receded back because you don't want this kind of crocodile-look...where it's just hinged here and it just opens. But it was really tricky to kind of design all the mouth shapes around that long muzzle because it's so different from what we've got."
On whether the acting in animation is different for a more contemporary story:
"I think Disney always, regardless of whether it's more contemporary or classic...there's always sincerity, and there's always heart and that's always present so that's always what we're trying to communicate through our characters."
"What drives me, as an animator, is making our characters believable. My hope is, when people watch the film, they're not thinking 'oh, that's an animated movie," I want them to just enjoy the movie for what it is and the characters for the situations they're going through..."
"We want them to think it's all real."
"Because it is in my head!"
The last department was Story, with Writer and Co-Director Jared Bush, Writer Phil Johnston, Story Artist Marc Smith and Head of Editorial Fabienne Rawley.
The panel illustrated the process they go through revising the movie by showing both an older version of a scene and then the scene as it plays in the finished film.
--They took us through a scene at the end of the first act where Judy faces disappointment and showed how the initial pitch would have been acted, and then the fully animated and voiced track.
--Then they said they threw the whole thing in the toilet, because the movie had developed so that Judy was a stronger character and the scene didn't work anymore.
--They reworked it to be funnier to give it more energy as the story flows into the second act.
--New small actions give Judy more agency.
An example of the progression of a scene from a different part of the movie:
On what drew them to the project:
"I...was really attracted to the comedy...and then the themes of the movie. While it's not, in no instance...it's not a message movie, it's not preachy--it's a comedy, but it is about something. It deals with bias and the way we prejudge each other and I like that I'm going to be able to talk to my kids about that, using this as a tool to do that. And that to me was very attractive."
Finally, the day ended with Producer Clark Spencer giving us a few minutes to discuss how he came to be involved with "Zootopia."
"So what happens is, when you finish a film (I finished 'Wreck-it Ralph') you come off and there are lots of projects in development and they always want a team of people who are going to work well together. I had worked with Byron on 'Bolt,' and I love him. I had worked with Byron all the way back on 'Lilo and Stitch' when he was a supervising animator and I was producing that movie and I have always thought that I wanted to be able to work with him again because of the fact that he is so talented. He's got such a great sense of humor and a real warm heart so I know every story he tells is going to have all those elements in it, and a real sense of appeal because there is nobody who draws like Byron. His designs are unbelievable.
"Then he pitched me this story and when I thought about this incredible mammal world and this incredible city I was immediately drawn to it. But the most important thing was I loved the message of the film. I thought 'how bold to go out there and tell a story about predator and prey, two groups that assume something about each other and then realize that they're actually wrong.' I thought, in today's world, that was a really profound thing to tackle. And I knew it would be super hard--very hard to figure out the balance of it throughout the film--but I thought it was a really important idea that I wanted to be a part of."
"Zootopia" opens in general release March 4, 2016.
2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2
Sunday, February 21 - Disney Princess Half Marathon
Up at 2:45, left the room about 3:30. No problem getting to the Epcot parking lot - we were actually parked one row closer than we were the day before. This time we had bags (our running belts) that needed to be checked, but that was very quick. There were plenty of lanes open.
There were over 20,000 runners in the half marathon, as opposed to about 11,000 for the 10K. The pre-race area was much more crowded.
It was another great morning for a race. About 55 degrees, so a little warmer than the day before, and it was more humid. I was comfortable in trash bag and gloves again.
It's always fun to run a Disney race in costume - and even more fun to run with friends who are also in costume. Several months ago I had an idea for a group...Cinderella and her stepsisters. I already had a Cinderella costume, and I talked Lee and our friend Eddie into running as my stepsisters. To be honest, they were all for it, and it really didn't take any fast-talking on my part. :-) Though Eddie did request the "pink one" (Anastasia).
For their costumes, I made a couple of skirts in the appropriate colors for Anastasia and Drizella out of sequined fabric. It was easier to work with than I expected. It doesn't ravel so I didn't need to hem.
For the tops, I purchased sleeveless running tops and then added puffy sleeves to them.
For Drizella's costume I made a puffy bow out of the sequin fabric and attached it to a headband. For Anastasia, Lee covered a visor with pink sequin fabric and I made the "crown" piece out of metallic gold craft foam. The guys said that it was all very comfortable to run in. And they looked great, if I do say so myself.
We met up with the Mickey Milers again.
About 4:45 we headed to the corrals. The porta-pottie lines were VERY long, but Eddie reminded us that there were some once we went into the "Runners Only" area. The lines were much shorter there. And then it was the 1/2 mile walk to the corrals. It wasn't too crowded for us this time. We met Lisa again and had time for a short chat and to wish each other a good race before going to our different corrals. (She's faster than we are! :-) )
We were in Corral C for this one. The race started at 5:30 with a burst of fireworks - they had them for each corral, which is always very nice.
As we got closer to the start line we could see the stage and the Fairy Godmother, plus the race announcers.
We started about 4 minutes after the official start, so we didn't have to wait too long.
The course heads straight to Magic Kingdom. This is the first time I've been this far forward in a WDW race and it made a big difference when we were on the single lane sections - it really didn't feel crowded at all.
One thing that was disappointing: the pirate ship that's normally placed about mile 2 wasn't there this year. The Heroes were out for photos not far from there, but had a long line - and we knew we'd see them on the way back. We also bypassed Aladdin and Sally/Jack Skellington - lines were long and it was still pretty dark for photos with the iPhone.
After mile 5 we entered Magic Kingdom. And the photo fun really began. :-) The "sisters" fought over Buzz Lightyear.
When we left the Alice group, the cast member said: "You're in for a surprise up ahead."
And there they were - the stepmother and both of the stepsisters! I knew that I had to get video of this - and their meeting did not disappoint. They were so excited. :-) (It's very funny to view in slow motion and watch their reactions when they first see the guys.)
We stopped in Frontierland to use the restroom there. There were cast members on the Adventureland side to make sure runners didn't go through there, and Lee cracked them up when he said: "Which side should I use?"
I was really hoping that Cinderella would be at the traditional princess photo stop backstage after Splash Mountain, but she wasn't there. We did get a two-fer, though - both Belle and the Beast and Aurora and Prince Phillip. Aurora almost lost it when she saw "the sisters", but recovered and told me: "Don't they look wonderful!" This was the longest line that we waited in, and it was only about 5 minutes long.
Just after that was the 10K mark and we made the turn to head back towards Epcot. The one lane "Cone Alley" section near the Grand Floridian wasn't too bad this time. Near the entrance to the Grand Floridian we found Bert and the penguins from "Mary Poppins". I guess Mary was taking a break.
Outside the Wedding Pavilion were the guys with the glass slipper. It didn't fit. :-)
Anastasia: "Genie, grant my wish and make HER disappear."
My cold was taking its toll on me and I was really starting to drag by mile 8. The guys did a great job in keeping my spirits up and making me laugh. And we got lots of nice comments from other runners on how good we looked. I say "we", but in all honesty it was the sisters who received most of the comments. They were pretty unique - I was just one of hundreds of Cinderellas. :-) This woman ran up to us and wanted her photo taken with them. "Sister - we've found our prince!"
Around mile 9.5 we came back to the Heroes again. They seemed a little alarmed. :-)
Finally we passed mile 12 and were backstage at Epcot. I think this is my favorite photo of the three of us from the race.
The sisters were very put out with the Fairy Godmother.
We crossed the finish line with a time of 2:49. It was a LOT of fun. The guys were really good sports - and they had a blast, too. They made a lot of people smile - many times when we ran by groups of spectators I'd see their faces light up when they saw the sisters. And I still laugh when I look at the photos and think about all of the funny moments we shared during the race. Thanks guys - you are both princes in my book!
I collected three medals - the half marathon medal, Glass Slipper Challenge medal, and Coast-to-Coast medal.
And then it was time to celebrate with the beverage of our choice! It had turned into a lovely warm day - very comfortable to sit around the finish area and visit for a while.
I find this particular race weekend to be a lot of fun - one of my favorites. The secret is to avoid the Expo on the first day. :-) This weekend has the most consistently good weather of any of the WDW race weekends and it's generally good - not too hot, not too cold. The theme is very appealing - it's hard not to love a race that features the Disney princesses! And it's wonderful to see so many women come out to share it together: mothers and daughters, sisters, friends... There are always lots of creative and beautiful costumes, too. The medals are also lovely, and are some of my favorites.
I thought it was interesting that the number of men in this race has been increasing every year: 1454 finished in 2014, 1720 in 2015, and 2037 this year. (18099 women finished this year.) For the most part the men who participate get into the spirit of the event and dress in costume and have a lot of fun with it.
Thank you to all of the cast members and the wonderful volunteers who make it all possible. They work hard and have to get up even earlier than the runners!
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 4, 2016.
Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsterswas conducting an Annual Passholder preview today, it officially opens on Monday March 7th. Below is a first look at the attraction featuring several videos and pictures. For the full set including more of Luigi's plus a check of the ongoing projects and other happens at the Disneyland Resort visit disneygeek.com
I enjoyed the original Flying Tires attraction. It was flawed in the sense that it did not move as freely or easily as envisioned but with a minimal wait it was still fun. The new Rollickin' Roadsters were much more fun to watch and the five different songs and dance routines added variety to the experience. The colors and details of the cars make it visually interesting too. The on ride experience is very passive and not as smooth as you may anticipate, because of these two reasons I thought the Flying Tires were more fun to ride.
The line was long. The mass of guests filled the area in front of the attraction and went down Cross Street. The end of the line was near the exit. Earlier in the day it had stretched to Flik's Fun Fair.
I got in line at 1:21pm and this was my view....A new banner for the new attraction. All the Festival of the Flying Tires signage has been swapped out. The other signage stayed as it was.
The line ahead of me...
I reached the queue entrance which had a posted wait of 60 minutes from there at 1:31pm.
Cast members were in the queue scanning annual passes. Every rider needed one today. The attraction has a 32 inch height requirement to ride.
Another set of cast members were scanning passes again and handing out key chains
Inside the queue looks the same. These posters all looked the same to me.
This is a new one for the dancing tires...vs flying tires.
I think this is new. There seemed to be several Carsoli references that I think are new.
Exited the queue building and had a good look at the cars at 2:20pm, about an hour after entering the line.
A video clip of the dancing cars from this angle. There are five different songs - this one is "Rollicking Night and Day".
The large sign is updated to feature the cousins vs the Festival of the Flying Tires.
2:40pm...Waiting to board as the group ahead of us gets ready to start.
A wide angle video of the full sequence. It is about a minute and a half of ride time.
A second camera, a tighter shot of the same sequence.
Time to board. I wanted the red car...but I paused for a picture and someone passed me for it (I did not see a sheet with the car names, I know they each have one).
I ended up with this one instead.
The seats are hard plastic as you would expect and there is a single seat belt. No doors.
A Point of View video of my first dance - to Cousin Rosa singing "Mambo Italiano". It was 2:44pm so I'd had about an 80 minute wait.
A look back as I exited. My car getting ready for the next dance.
I then moved around to the viewing area on Cross Street to watch a couple of dances. A video of a full sequence from this angle.
One more license plate picture before moving on. I needed to get pictures of several dozen eggs and construction before sunset.
You can read the attraction page on AllEars.Net HERE.
The new Rollickin' Roadsters merchandise was available in Ramone's.
I stopped back by in the evening, after sunset. The wait had grown as more Annual Passholders arrived after work and school.
The stroller area was converted into an extended queue.
The attraction was down when I first showed up.
They were moving cars around one by one. It was a very slow process to watch.
Here is a video clip of a car being brought out.
They then did a full cycle. Here is a look at the cars dancing with no guests.
A second camera for a slightly different view.
Then the attraction reopened.
Hope you enjoyed this first look at Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters at the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - Dining
I was able to dine at a number of new (to me) places on this trip and had some really good experiences.
I started off my trip staying at the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. On the first night there I went to Captain Cook's. I wasn't very hungry but I thought the Pho Noodle Bowl with Shrimp (it also comes with beef) looked good. Rice noodles and seasonal vegetables in Bui broth. It was tasty and really hit the spot, though I would've liked to have gyoza sauce or something like that to add to it to kick up the flavor a little. All that was available was soy sauce. Still, I liked it so much that I had it again later in the week.
The following afternoon Deb and I went to Afternoon Tea in the Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian. Sigh. It was just lovely.
We both had the Derbyshire Tea, which was three courses: sandwich plate, scone and tart, and choice of dessert. We also received a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne and our choice of tea, each with our own individual pot.
The sandwich plate was four tea sandwiches: egg salad, golden beet and goat cheese, curried chicken salad, and cucumber. It also had generous slices of Tillamook and sage cheddar cheese with lavosh, grapes, and a small caramelized onion tart. I thought the presentation was very attractive. And it was really quite a bit of food.
The currant scone was served with apricot jam (which was wonderful!), clotted cream, and lemon curd, accompanied by a strawberry jam tart. The scone was very good, but the tart was disappointing - the jam seemed gummy and the texture was unappealing.
For dessert we had our choice of strawberries and cream, pastries, or banana creme brulee trifle. I chose the strawberries and cream. A little too much whipped cream, but the berries were excellent.
Deb tried the trifle - she said it was too sweet. The pieces of banana in it were good, but there weren't enough of them. (This photo is from my tea with Lee later in the week - he ordered the trifle and I tried the housemade pastries, which I really enjoyed.)
I chose the Mad Hatter's Tea Party as my tea selection. I really enjoyed it - black tea, a bit fruity with some vanilla.
It was really a lovely way to spend almost two hours. We were not rushed at all and were able to relax and enjoy our food, as well as our tea and champagne. We were both pleasantly full when we left.
The Derbyshire Tea was $45/person, plus tax and gratuity. (The Lounge does not accept Tables in Wonderland.) I thought it was well worth it for the experience that we had. In addition to being tasty the food was very satisfying - we weren't hungry again for hours.
Tea is served from 2:00-5:00. It's not a very big place, and most of the tables are only seated once. I made reservations six months in advance - you need to plan ahead for this one.
I recently tried the new Classic Afternoon Tea at Steakhouse 55 at Disneyland - and while that was very nice, I have to say that I enjoyed this one more. It was also significantly cheaper - our Derbyshire Tea was almost equivalent to the Premium Tea Party we enjoyed at Steakhouse 55 (it also included a salad), but that one was $65/person.
That night we had a late dinner at Captain Cook's. I tried the Aloha Pork Sandwich - pulled pork on pineapple-coconut bun with cheddar, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It came with fries, but I opted for steamed vegetables instead. Unfortunately that included lots of red peppers - yuck. The pork itself was good and the pineapple-coconut bun was really good - very soft and tender.
Deb tried the Hot Beef and Cheddar Sandwich - Roast beef, cheddar, caramelized onions with sweet chili mayo on house-made bread. It was also topped with yellow peppers, which were not mentioned anywhere in the description. She likes peppers about as well as I do, so was not too happy about that. The sandwich was served with a small side "Asian slaw" - it was mostly red peppers and onions! Deb commented that it wasn't like any "slaw" she'd ever had before. Pretty inedible.
The next afternoon we went to "Be Our Guest" restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. I'd also made this reservation six months in advance. The restaurant gives you the option of pre-ordering your food - you can do that several days in advance, but we just did it that morning. When we arrived at the podium outside we were given a large plastic rose (tracking device), then we went inside to the registers. The cashier asked if we had any changes to what we had pre-ordered, we said no, and she rang us up.
The restaurant is "seat yourself" at lunch. While it was busy, we were still able to quickly find a table in the main room. Our food was delivered to us about 10 minutes later, and the server took the rose away. That worked pretty well.
I ordered the Tuna Nicoise Salad - Warm seared tuna steak with chilled green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs. Bell peppers again - ugh. (Ordering on-line gave me limited options for modifying the dish.) Fortunately there weren't very many and they were pretty easy to pick out. I was able to order the dressing on the side - it was some kind of a light fruit vinaigrette. The tuna was very good, and it was nice to see the roasted potato wedges. The egg wasn't hard boiled - it was more like a poached egg over medium. It was a very good salad and I would order it again, though maybe for $15.99 they could have added some more greens to it.
Deb ordered the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich - served warm on a baguette with horseradish sour cream and Pomme Frites. She said it was good. I tried a couple of the fries and they were decent.
Our friend Jack joined us (they were able to add him to our party as a walk-up), and ordered the Carved Turkey Sandwich - served on a warm baguette with Dijon mayonnaise and Pomme Frites. REAL carved turkey - it looked very good.
I had ordered dessert: The Triple Chocolate Cupcake. They had me at "chocolate". :-) Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling, and chocolate ganache. It was a pretty small cupcake for $4.59, but it was really good. The cake was moist and delicious, and the mousse filling and ganache icing were chocolaty goodness. My sweet tooth was happy. (I did offer to share!)
That evening four of us dined at Liberty Tree Tavern. Let's just say I will not be returning there anytime soon. The seating process was chaotic. They don't use pagers there - instead the hostesses stand in the restaurant waiting area and announce: "Hear ye, hear ye, now seating the Wills family from the colony of Florida". Which is different, but the waiting area is SO loud that we couldn't hear them - especially since most of them didn't project very well. We had a reservation but we still waited about 20 minutes before we were seated.
Once we made it to our table, our server quickly took our drink orders and explained the menu. It's a series of items served family style - and if you want more of anything the server will bring it to you. We started with the Declaration Salad. It was your average green salad - nothing remarkable about it. Also served with rolls and cornbread, which you will see in the next photo.
The entree and side dishes were all served at the same time. The Patriot's Platter included roast turkey breast, carved ham, and pot roast, with stuffing and cranberry relish. For side dishes we had green beans and mashed potatoes, gravy, and macaroni and cheese. It was all - OK. Filling, but not exceptional. None of us cared for the cranberry relish - all we could taste was orange rind. The turkey was pretty good, and the ham was fine. I didn't try the pot roast but the others didn't like it at all.
For dessert we had pieces of Johnny Appleseed's Cake - Tavern made white cake filled with apples and dried cranberries, topped with ice cream, according to the menu. I think I was the only one who liked this. But the menu description is not correct - it was not cakey at all - it was more like a bar topped with apples and cranberries. I don't think this is a very appealing dessert to most people - it didn't look very appetizing, and I think they would have been better off with apple pie or apple crisp. (I make an oatmeal apple crisp that is way better than what I was served.)
It was a disappointing meal. Not that anything was really BAD, but for the price ($34/person) I expected more. If you have a hungry family and want to fill them up this might be a good option...but I won't be returning any time soon.
The next morning we went to breakfast at The Garden Grill in The Land Pavilion in Epcot. It's an "All-you-care-to eat Harvest Feast" served family style, and I enjoyed this one a whole lot more than our meal the night before.
We started with Chip's Sticky Bun Bake - a large cinnamon bun served in a skillet. It separated into pieces pretty easily. I loved this...I could've filled up just on this - it was hard not to go back for seconds or thirds (I did have a second piece after I'd finished most of the rest of my breakfast.)
We also had a dish of fresh fruit. It was good - it would have been nice to have more strawberries.
And then there was a plate of sausage gravy with biscuits. I didn't try this, but my companions seemed to enjoy it.
The main platter included Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon (and it was CRISP! Yay!), ham, and tater tots. There was chocolate-hazelnut sauce to go on the Mickey waffles...heavenly! (Though the rest of the table requested plain old maple syrup. I'm not sure they are really my friends. :-) )
The scrambled eggs were freshly prepared but they were a little salty. We requested a second serving later and they were fine.
The tater tots were surprisingly good - I'm not sure why. But several of us had a hard time stopping and kept returning to the plate to have "just one more".
This was a character meal, with Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto. They all came by at least twice. The chipmunks were a hoot. Chip tried to convince us that he had layed the eggs (eww!), and Dale had a sign telling us to "look for the hidden Dale in the flowers" - the mural on the wall. But there wasn't one - he was just messing with us.
Farmer Mickey was having a hard time keeping the chipmunks under control. And they were taking all of the credit for his hard work in growing the food, too. :-)
The Garden Grill restaurant rotates above the "Living with the Land" attraction. We were there a little over an hour and made one revolution. Afterward we walked around the restaurant to have a better view (we were on the upper level, so couldn't see down into it very well when we went around.)
The price for breakfast was $29.99, and it also included juice, and coffee/tea. For a character meal I didn't think that was too bad, and I really enjoyed the food. I'd seriously consider returning again when I want a big breakfast - like after running a half marathon or even a 10K. With so much of The Land pavilion closed right now (Living with the Land is the only attraction open) the restaurant was relatively quiet - when it's very busy and loud I might feel differently.
Even though we were still pretty full from breakfast, in the interests of research Deb and I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for a late lunch at the new Skipper Canteen in Adventureland. You can watch our episode of AllEarsTV below, or keep reading...
It was much larger than I expected - three different rooms. All decorated in that sort of Jungle Cruise motif.
This is one of the back rooms - more of a library or study.
The room we were in was a large, richly decorated dining room - this is one of the lights.
Our server told us that the menu would take us all over the world. And yes, it included selections from China, southeast Asia, and India. There were also more traditional dishes like mac and cheese and lamb, but they incorporated spices from Africa and Asia.
Deb and I both started with one of the specialty (non-alcoholic, since this is the Magic Kingdom) beverages. I had the Schweitzer Slush (trying saying that fast even twice!) - frozen apple juice and passion fruit with bursting green apple boba balls. I liked it because it wasn't too sweet - very refreshing, and the boba balls are fun, though I had to be careful not to inhale them through the straw.
Deb tried the Punch Line Punch- tropical fruit juices and mango puree. She enjoyed that - said it was like a mango smoothie.
The bread service was an Ethiopian bread served with honey that was spiced with fenugreek. The bread had coriander in it. It was a fairly assertive spice flavor - I really didn't like it at all.
As an appetizer we ordered the S.E.A. SHU MAI - steamed dumplings filled with pork, shrimp, and mung beans. It was served with tamari sauce - sort of a soy sauce with some additional flavor. I thought it was a pretty generous serving for $10.
For an entree I tried Char Siu Pork - marinated grilled pork tenderloin medallions served with Chinese broccoli and white rice. It was the right color, and nicely grilled, but it was dry. While it had a good flavor it didn't have the sweetness I associate with Char Siu pork. The Chinese broccoli was pretty fibrous - it needed a sauce or some additional flavors.
Deb tried Skip's Mac and Cheese - an Egyptian take on the dish with spiced ground beef, pasta, and Bechamel sauce. Also served with Chinese broccoli. She enjoyed it, and in fact said the mac and cheese part was among the best she's had. I tried just the mac and cheese part and it was very good.
For dessert we tried a Kungaloosh. Those of you who remember the Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island will be familiar with this name. In this case it's a chocolate cake served with cashew caramel ice cream and caramelized bananas. We were pretty full - all I tried was the ice cream. Which was excellent - like a butter pecan, but with cashews.
As Deb and I said in the AllEarsNet TV episode - we really liked the idea of this restaurant, but don't think the menu is going to go over very well in Magic Kingdom. The spices and flavors are more appropriate for Animal Kingdom or a resort restaurant. I thought a lot of the appetizers looked good, so on a return visit I'd be tempted just to order several of those to share rather than ordering entrees.
That night a group of us went to Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. This was my first time visiting Disney Springs since before the name changed. So there was a lot of it that was new to me. The restaurant is really gorgeous, and quite large. Unfortunately it's also extremely loud.
The menu had all kinds of offerings that looked really good. To start I ordered a glass of Sake Sangria - asian pears, apple plum, tangerine juice, sake, light white wine, plum wine. It was refreshing - the sake gave it a different flavor that I'm a little on the fence about.
For an appetizer I tried Vegetable Sushi with spicy mayo, asparagus, carrot, and cucumber. I liked it.
Deb ordered Shrimp Tempura Sushi with asparagus, spicy mayo, and avocado, and I tried a piece of that. It was also very good, though the panko crumbs on top weren't very attractive.
Several of us also shared a Tuna Pizza - crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeno, and anchovy aioli. It was a little messy to eat, but very tasty.
For an entree I ordered Pad Thai with Shrimp - it also comes with chicken. Stir-fried flat rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallions, fried tofu, pickled turnip, and sweet tamarind sauce. Our server advised me that it was not a traditional pad thai with peanut sauce - and that was fine with me, since I don't really like peanut sauce. It was very good - I especially liked the fried tofu. The sauce was very good.
For dessert we all shared an Mm Parfait. This is a dessert for two: chocolate cream puffs, vanilla gelato, hazelnut chocolate crunchies, and sesame mochi. I thought the mochi was a little odd, but I really enjoyed all of the rest of it, especially the hazelnut crunchies. It will definitely serve more than two people.
Other than the noise I really enjoyed our meal at Morimoto Asia. We had a terrific server and the food was great. I'm looking forward to trying it again, and being able to take Lee this time.
2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 4 - Dining
Lee was finally able to join me on Thursday night. I had moved to Kidani Village earlier that day. Unfortunately by then the cold had really taken hold of me and my appetite was not every good - for a number of meals I just wanted fruit or yogurt. So there's not going to be quite the dining variety in this part as there was in the earlier part of the trip.
Friday evening we had dinner at The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I just got a Chef Salad out of the Grab and Go area. It was actually a really good salad with nice fresh greens and turkey, ham, hard boiled eggs, two kinds of cheese, onions, tomatoes, olives and lentils. I couldn't eat it all.
Lee had the BBQ Chicken Flatbread with chicken, BBQ sauce, onions, cilantro, and corn. He's a flatbread aficionado, and he enjoyed it.
Saturday morning after the 10K we went into the Studios. Apparently there's no place to get a quick service hot breakfast in the Studios any more. The Starbucks there has some hot sandwiches, and that's where we ended up. We split the egg and bacon sandwich. It was fine, but nothing special.
That night, before the half marathon, we had an early dinner at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion. I still wasn't real hungry and I really wanted some soup, so I had the Roasted Tomato Soup, which was topped with goat cheese. It was very good.
I needed a little more food so I ordered the Kids Salmon - it came with choice of side (mashed potatoes) and beverage (bottle of water). It was just the right size and nicely prepared.
Lee tried the Chicken Corn Chowder soup, which he really liked.
He also ordered the Mongolian Beef with fried rice. He enjoyed that as well.
Sunday after we finished the half marathon we had lunch at Sanaa. Our reservation was at 11:30 (when the restaurant opened) and we had one of the window tables with a view of the savanna. We saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, Ankole cattle, and birds.
We started with a couple of specialty cocktails. The one in front is Lee's - I don't remember the name, but it was basically a pina colada with strawberry. I had the Kande Coconut Cooler. The description said it was "a refreshing combination of Starr African Rum, coconut, vanilla ice cream, and orange juice." I got the orange juice and the rum, but I didn't taste coconut or ice cream. Not what I expected, and I was disappointed.
I don't think you can go to Sanaa and not order the Bread Service! Though with just two of us it was an awful lot of bread. All good, though. We ordered just three of the accompaniments rather than all nine: Mango chutney, roasted red pepper hummus, and tamarind chutney.
Lee ordered the "slow cooked in gravy" selection, which they call "Potjie Inspired" now. He chose the Goan Seafood Curry and Braised Beef with rice. He said the beef was really excellent - melted in the mouth. He enjoyed the curry, also.
I tried the Kenya Coffee BBQ Sandwich - pulled pork with warm root vegetable slaw served with housemade chips. The pork was very good - I could definitely taste the coffee flavor, but it wasn't overwhelming. The vegetable slaw was nicely vinegary. It was very good.
That evening we joined a group of friends for dinner atThe Boathouse in Disney Springs. We'd never been there before. On the expensive side, but a very nice experience.
I started with the Chopped Salad - romaine & iceberg, poached bay shrimp, peppered salami, hearts of palm, red onions, olives, pepperoncini, and smoked mozzarella topped with an herb vinaigrette. I ordered the small salad, but it was a lot bigger than I expected. Lee had some of it, too.
For an entree I tried Grilled Fish Tacos - jerk spiced, with vegetable slaw, avocado, and serrano-chili cream. I can't remember what type of fish it was -it varies depending on what's fresh that day. They were very good - the jerk spice wasn't too strong.
Our friend Phill highly recommended the steaks at The Boathouse, so that's what most of the table ordered. Lee had the 8 oz Filet Mignon. The server scared him a bit with his descriptions of "medium" vs "medium well", and Lee ended up ordering it medium well - in hindsight medium would have been better. He still really enjoyed the steak.
The steaks (most of the entrees for that matter) don't come with any accompaniments, so Lee ordered a side of Roasted New Potatoes to go with it. They were very good - a nice crisp on the outside, but still fluffy inside.
He also shared some of the Mac N' Cheese side that Anna ordered. All of the sides are plenty large for sharing between at least three people.
I've heard about The Boathouse desserts, and wish we'd had the opportunity to try one of them, but we were just too full.
The next day we were in Animal Kingdom at lunch time. I wasn't very hungry, and just got a fruit and cheese plate from the Harambe Fruit Market. This hit the spot nicely.
Lee wanted something more substantial, and we went to the Harambe Market. I really like the looks of this area - very well-themed. And there's quite a variety of foods available at the individual stands, a nice change from normal theme park offerings. But it's very popular and I couldn't find a table for a while, until I saw a couple of girls who were getting ready to leave.
Lee tried the Boerewors Sausage fried in curry batter. A more interesting variant of a corn dog. :-)
He also got an African Milk Tart for us to share. This was coconut custard in a chocolate tart shell dusted with sugar and five spice powder. It was pretty good, though I would've preferred a much strong coconut flavor - it was pretty light.
That was our final meal on Disney property. After that we spent some time at Universal Studios. We stayed two nights in the Cabana Bay Resort, and ate one dinner and one breakfast in their food court. I thought it was decent, and the food prices were about the same as Disney. The one morning I enjoyed their "Make-your-own Yogurt Parfait" bar. I was impressed at the variety of fresh fruit - four kinds of berries as well as mango and other toppings. It was sold by weight. Lee had a steak with chimichurri sauce the one night that was very good.
We ate our other meals in the parks or in CityWalk. The only meal I took photos of was our lunch at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) on our final day. I ordered the Ploughman's Lunch, which came with several kinds of cheese, Scotch Egg, cornichons, a pickled beet salad, mixed green salad, grilled tomatoes, and bread. I also ordered a cup of split pea soup with it. The soup was very good. The rest of it was ok - the salad, bread, and cheese was good, but the rest - definitely not to my taste. :-) I LOVE tomatoes, but grilled tomatoes - ick. It was interesting to try something different, though.
Lee had the Mini Pie Combination - I think it was shepherd's pie and a seafood pie - served with salad. He said they were both very good.
The day before we had gone to Schwab's in Universal Studios and had ice cream. Lee had a chocolate shake that was very good - made the old-fashioned way, and not just out of a machine.
And of course it's not a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without some butterbeer! :-) Lee likes it, but I think it's too sweet. My favorite is the pumpkin juice. If you go into the Hogs Head Bar adjoining The Three Broomsticks, you can get a pumpkin fizz - pumpkin juice with soda water. That's my favorite.
I also tried a Cauldron Cake from Honeydukes. It was not bad - but the Triple Chocolate Cupcake I had at Be Our Guest was better.
We'll be back at WDW in April for the Stars Wars - The Dark Side half marathon weekend - I'm looking forward to being in better health then and enjoying my food a lot more than I did on this trip.
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 4, 2016.
This post will focus on the annual Egg-Stravaganza. For a first look at Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters check out my other post here on AllEars.net or check out my full picture set on disneygeek.com for a more complete look at my visit.
*** Note there are spoilers in this post so if you do not want to know the location of some of the eggs do not read or scroll any further... on the other hand if you want to see the location of all 36 eggs visit my full picture set ***
The 2016 Egg-Stravaganza at the Disneyland Resort started on March 2 and runs through March 27 (or supplies run out). This year they have expanded to three hunts, one at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney. So you can search for up to 36 eggs hidden around the resort. You purchase your map & stickers, for $5.95 plus tax (no discounts apply). Then you set off to find the eggs hidden around the park and identify which character egg is in which location. At any point, even before you've done any hunting, you can redeem your map for one of six prize eggs to take home.
The six prizes you can choose from.
The Disneyland map.
I will include a sample of the eggs from each hunt below. The 20th Century Music Company (Inside)
China Closet (Inside)
Bonanza Outfitters (Inside)
King Arthur Carrousel
Pinocchio's Daring Journey
The Disney California Adventure map. The redemption location for Disney California Adventure is in Elias & Company.
Hollywood Land (Water Tower)
Hollywood Land (Truck)
A Bugs Land (Entrance)
Grizzly River Run (Artist Camp) -- I would call it near the DVC kiosk.
Chamber of Commerce
Downtown Disney is new this year. The redemption location is just inside the center door of World of Disney opposite the Mickey and Friends Tram drop off.
The prizes are the same.
The Downtown Disney Map
Information Booth (Near Disneyland Park Gates)
World of Disney (Inside)
Marcelines Confectionery (Inside)
From here you can see two...
Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
After our trip to Walt Disney World we spent a few days at the Universal Orlando Resort. Since a few people have asked me about that I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.
We stayed at Universal's Cabana Bay Resort. It's the least expensive of the Universal hotels - on a par with a Moderate Disney resort in terms of price and amenities.
The resort is a blast from the past - a return to the early 1960s.
I thought the public areas all felt bright and open.
The rooms were also very light, though the colors were not really to my taste. Still, they fit the theme.
We had a standard room, and it was fine. A little tight on storage. There was a small refrigerator in the cabinet.
We had a view looking towards the parks. No balcony, and our window didn't open at all.
The toiletries cracked me up - it's been years since I saw Zest soap or Alberto VO5 hair products - but I certainly remember them growing up!
There was a large food court called the Bayside Diner. We ate there a couple of times. The resort was not anywhere close to full, so it was never very crowded, but I thought the food lines moved very slowly. Lee waited 10 minutes one morning just to get a normal breakfast plate - and there weren't that many people in front of him! They had a pretty good selection of grab-and-go items, though.
The pool area was very cool. Very beachy, with lots of sand. The resort is sort of X-shaped, with the lobby area in the middle, and there are pools in the middle on each side.
There was a $12/night charge for self parking.
The bus service was GREAT. We never waited longer than 5 minutes, and usually there was a bus waiting at the bus stop. We had dedicated buses for our resort, and there were always at least two in service any time we were coming or going. We returned to our resort one night at park closing, and although there was a line of people, there was always a second bus waiting while the first one was loading.
There was a single bus stop at our resort. And only one drop-off point at the other end for CityWalk and both theme parks. There was a walkway that would have taken us to the Royal Pacific resort and we could've taken a boat from there, but we never did that - I was conserving energy by this point.
I was impressed with the security at Universal. EVERYONE who enters via CityWalk, whether they are coming from one of the parking lots or getting dropped off by a shuttle or taxi, goes through security BEFORE they enter CityWalk. I'd say there were 15-20 different lines of security people doing bag check. And then each line had its own metal detector that we went through. In case someone needed a secondary check with a wand, there was a wand person for every two lines. It was fast and efficient - I never waited behind more than one person, and usually I walked right up to a bag checker.
It is a significant walk from the drop-off area through CityWalk to either of the park entrances - about a third of a mile. There are a couple of moving sidewalks between security and CityWalk, but after that you're under your own power. Those sidewalks were FAST, too, and you better be ready to move when you get to the end of one! I really liked them. :-)
For tickets, we ended up buying the PowerPass Annual Pass. It's blocked out during the summer, as well as during Christmas and Spring Break, but those are times when we won't be visiting! The PowerPass was only about $50 more than a three-day park hopper ticket would have been. If we get even one more visit in the next year then we'll be ahead.
I can't say that I was very impressed with the look of the ticket, though. :-)
Universal also uses a finger biometric that's associated with the pass. We found that entry at the turnstiles was pretty slow. A lot of people show up with a ticket that's a piece of paper with a barcode on it - and the employees at the turnstiles often had difficulty getting them to scan. Not their fault - it just didn't work that well. For those of us with regular tickets it worked much better.
Our main reason for visiting was to see the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley-themed section of Universal Studios. We'd seen the Hogwarts/Hogsmeade part several years ago, and most people said Diagon Alley was even better. We'd also never been to Universal Studios Florida, and had heard there were lots of other interesting attractions there.
Diagon Alley was very impressive. It certainly felt like entering another world!
The only attraction is Escape from Gringotts, but it feels like there's a larger area to wander around than in Hogsmeade/Hogwarts, and there are a lot more shops. Including many that fans of the books will recognize, like "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes", "Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream", "Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions", "Quality Quidditch Supplies" and of course "Ollivanders" wand shop.
There's a "show" that goes along with Ollivande's. Groups of about 20 go into the shop, a couple of people (usually children) are chosen, and one of Mr. Ollivander's assistants helps them select a wand. Then everyone goes into the main shop, where there are quite a few different wands available for sale. There is a large selection of "interactive wands". These are kind of fun - in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade there are spots where, if you perform the correct motion and incantation, you can make things happen. Lee bought one, and he had fun with it - he was quite good at it. No doubt he earned an "Outstanding" on his Charms O.W.L. :-) (One warning: there are several places in Diagon Alley where the wands set off a water effect - and an innocent bystander in the wrong place might get wet. Avoid areas with puddles. :-) )
If you take a wrong turn you can end up in "Knockturn Alley" - you'll find the infamous "Borgin and Burkes" there, which has merchandise that's quite different than what you'll find in the rest of Diagon Alley. That whole area really is quiet and dark and a little bit spooky.
There are a couple of live shows on the stage. We saw Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was a re-telling of "The Three Brothers" - aka the origin of the Deathly Hallows. I thought it was well-done and entertaining. The other show is "Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees", but we never managed to catch that one.
Escape from Gringotts is the main attraction. As with many of the Universal attractions, you'll have to lock up any loose items (bags, backpacks, cameras) in the free lockers before entering. The building and the queue are really impressive, and it feels like a huge, fancy bank. We even wander past desks where there are copies of "The Daily Prophet" open - complete with moving pictures.
The ride is mostly a runaway mine coaster type of thing, but with lots of projections of Harry Potter and the gang. Despite all of the warnings, I didn't think it was particularly rough, and I found it much less disorienting than Expedition Everest. Really a lot of fun. I think we both enjoyed it more than the "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride over in Islands of Adventure. We never saw the line posted at more than 10 minutes long - I think they move a lot of people through it pretty quickly.
The dragon on top of Gringotts will flame occasionally - but she's very temperamental, and doesn't do it on a schedule. I managed to catch it twice - the second time I'd waited over 20 minutes and I had actually given up and walked away (but not too far) when I heard her start growling.
We ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron on our last day, which was pretty good. On the expensive side, though. But as Harry Potter fans we had to do it! :-)
I thought one interesting thing about Diagon Alley is that it really is hidden away - when you walk past it, it just looks like buildings along a London street, and you have to go through a not-so-obvious passageway to get inside.
Right next to it, and far more obvious, is King's Cross Station.
This is where you catch the Hogwarts Express to travel between London (in Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (in Islands of Adventure). You need a parkhopper ticket to go between parks - your park ticket is scanned before you get too far into the queue. The queue is quite long - I shudder to think what the wait would be if it were full!!!
The conductors will place up to six passengers in each compartment, and then shut the door, and the train begins traveling to the other park. There's a window where you can watch what's going on outside, and you can also see shadows (and hear voices) of people walking by on the compartment door side. It's a different experience traveling each direction, so you really need to take the Hogwarts Express both ways.
The Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle area of Islands of Adventure is the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It's still very well done, and very well-themed. Unlike Diagon Alley, a fair number of the store fronts are just false fronts with nothing behind them - there aren't as many shops in Hogsmeade. But Honeydukes has all kinds of interesting treats. There's another version of Ollivanders, as well as a shop selling Hogwarts attire and other souvenirs.
But there are three rides in this area: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dueling Dragons and Flight of the Hippogriff. The latter is a small "beginner" roller coaster, but it's fun. Dueling Dragons has two coasters racing side-by-side, with lots of inversions - I've never done that one. The queue for Forbidden Journey is really fascinating, as it takes you all over Hogwarts Castle, including Dumbledore's office. Several encounters with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, also. The ride is on a "broomstick". While it doesn't go upside down, it does throw you around a bit at lots of different angles, and there's some rather scary visuals. Lee doesn't like it because there's a shoulder harness to hold you in, and it's very confining. It's definitely a more intense experience than Gringott's. It had a longer line - 25 minutes both times we were in that area (I rode it once - it said 15 minutes when I entered, but took almost 25). Both Forbidden Journey and Dueling Dragons require that loose items be placed in a locker (or left with a non-rider).
We didn't eat at The Three Broomsticks this time, but we did go into the Hogs Head for a drink. Lee tried hot butterbeer, and I got a pumpkin fizz - pumpkin juice with sparkling water. The Hogs Head is the only place I know to get that.
There's two different live shows in Hogsmeade, also - the Hogwarts Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally. The Frog Choir features four vocalists, once from each house, and two frogs. Very talented.
I have terrible luck with the Spirit Rally. It includes students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. We kept missing it on our first visit several years ago. And this time, we watched them come out, but the performance suddenly turned into a photo opportunity only because of a threatening rainstorm.
Our main reason for visiting Universal was to tour the Harry Potter-themed sections, but we had time to enjoy some of the rest, also. We'd never been to the Universal Studios part before, and spent most of our time there. The rides were good, but so many of them were variations on the same thing: motion combined with projections - often 3D projections. Revenge of the Mummy, Transformers, Men in Black, Minions, as well as Escape from Gringotts. We never made it to Shrek or The Simpsons. We also did the E.T. ride - cute, and brought back a few memories. We caught the Animal Actors live show one day, and found it entertaining. There were otters in it. :-) And they'd even trained cats to perform! That takes some doing.
I found it interesting just to walk around the park and see all of the different themed areas, like Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, and London.
The first night we were there at park closing (which was early - 7:00), and saw the nighttime show: Universal's Cinematic Spectacular - 100 Years of Movie Memories. Movie clips shown on two-sided mist screens, with fountains and fireworks. The mist screens were distracting, since they are pretty transparent, so we saw the reverse images on the other side. Still, interesting to see the clips from so many different classic movies. It was visible from all around the Embarcadero area - we just walked right up to a spot along the water not long after it started. It's no Illuminations or World of Color - but I wasn't expecting any kind of nighttime show, so it was a bonus.
We've been to Islands of Adventure twice before, so didn't spend much time there on this trip. I still love the look of much of this park - I think it's the closest thing we have in the U.S. to rival the beautiful theming of Tokyo Disney Sea. The Port of Entry and Lost Continent areas are just incredible. I also love Seuss Landing and of course the Hogsmeade/Hogwarts area.
It was raining off and on during the half day we were there, so we were trying to do indoor things. We saw Poseidon's Fury. It was raining pretty hard when we went in, and it was sunny and beautiful when we came out! The show is just ok, but there are some pretty good visual effects.
We also sat out a shower during The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show. I would've liked to see the Dr. Seuss show, but we didn't get to it.
The parks were not too crowded when we were there. I think the longest we waited for anything was about 40 minutes for Transformers and Minions - the wait times were posted at 30 minutes, though. Usually we waited less than 15 minutes.
We enjoyed our time at the parks, and there were a number of other things we could've done if I'd been feeling better. Since we have the passes I can certainly see us popping over there first thing in the morning and staying until early afternoon one day on some of our upcoming trips.
People looking for the complete "Zootopia" viewing experience can head towards Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for some charming extras.
As usual, House Organist Rob Richards starts off every show with a rousing Disney medley.
After the trailers, a Wild Animal Encounter show takes place, in which audiences are given a glimpse of some of the prominent animals seen in the film, along with some short but informative presentations.
Subsequently, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde take the stage and dance up a storm to the tune of Shakira's "Try Everything."
The movie itself is presented in Dolby Vision™ and Dolby Atmos® and looks and sounds as great as you'd expect. (AllEars Blogger Kristin Ford reviewed it here.) Afterwards, moviegoers can enjoy a exhibit downstairs detailing some of the research and concept art that went into the making of "Zootopia."
On your way out, "Zootopia" photo ops are available, as is a wide variety of merchandise in the adjoining Disney Studio Store and Ghirardelli Soda Fountain.
So if it's your first time seeing it, or even your seventh (it's really good, you guys,) head on over to the El Capitan Theatre for a full night of "Zootopia."
"Zootopia" is currently playing at the El Capitan Theatre until April 10, 2016. On select dates, El Capitan guests may enjoy breakfast, meet Judy Hopps and receive a commemorative photo before seeing the 10 a.m. movie. Seating is limited and advanced reservations are required with purchase of movie ticket. El Capitan guests may also enjoy a Dave & Busters Movie & a Meal Offer, which includes a reserved seat for “Zootopia,” choice of entrée from the Dave & Busters Eat & Play menu and a $10 Dave & Busters game card. Reservations required 24 hours in advance with movie ticket. The El Capitan Theatre will also host a special Tiny Tot Tuesday every Tuesday at 10 a.m. during the run of “Zootopia.” During these screenings, parents and small children may enjoy the movie with lights dimmed and reduced sound levels.
Replacing the Wandering Oaken's Trading Post. The merchandise is still almost all Frozen though.
Grizzly River Run has returned to operation... of course it was down when I walked by.
The walls are down and the decking replaced here... the benches have yet to return though.
Paradise Pier as the sun is setting with spring blooms.
Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
Tonight, March 30th, the action-packed second season of "Star Wars Rebels" comes to a close with the one-hour finale "Twilight of the Apprentice: Part I and II."
[Photos and video courtesy of Disney]
For those who may have fallen a few episodes behind, you can quickly catch up with the episodes available for streaming on the DisneyXD website. For those lacking the time, here's the rough setup: The events in the series take place between the films Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.While the Rebels have managed to elude the Imperial forces searching for them, the Force-sensitive Inquisitors continue to hunt Kanan and Ezra at every turn. In a desperate ploy to gain an edge over the Inquisitors, Kanan, Ezra, and Ashoka visit a ruined planet seeking knowledge of the Dark Side, but finding old friends and new enemies. Confrontations ensue, from which no one will emerge unchanged.
As a meeting with her old master seems increasingly inevitable, here's a video recap of Ahsoka Tano's history in case you (like I) still haven't finished Clone Wars.
Disney XD held a screening event this week at the Walt Disney Studios Theater, at which most of the major "Star Wars Rebels" cast and crew made an appearance.
While I can't tell you much more about the episode or the discussion that followed without spoiling it, I can say that the finale has a lot of action and game-changing events that set up some interesting stories to be told in Season Three. Be sure to watch tonight, Wednesday, March 30 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT) on Disney XD!